NICHD Researchers Win Top Prize in Nikon Photo Competition
Daniel Castranova, an aquatic research specialist in NICHD’s section on vertebrate organogenesis, recently took first place in the 46th annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition for his image of a juvenile zebrafish. Also named on the prize are lab chief Dr. Brant Weinstein and postbaccalaureate fellow Bakary Samasa.
The photo merges 350 individual images to reveal the top, dorsal view of a zebrafish with a fluorescently “tagged” skeleton, scales and lymphatic system.
“When I finally processed the picture, I knew immediately that it was worth submitting to the competition,” said Castranova. “But I was hoping we would get an ‘honorable mention.’ I never expected that we would actually win.”
The NICHD lab is well-known for its live fluorescent microscopy methods, which they use to study how blood and lymphatic vessels develop. Their discoveries in zebrafish provide foundational research for clinical studies of treatments for diseases and disorders that occur in the human brain, including Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Castranova joined the lab in 2003 to help maintain zebrafish lines. He eventually learned how to use confocal microscopy equipment when he was tasked with characterizing a zebrafish mutant, and he found the work fascinating. Now, Castranova is the lab’s confocal imaging expert and helps train new members.
“I’m mainly self-taught. I learned a lot from asking the service and salespeople questions about the equipment. And I took a weeklong crash course in imaging. But most of what I know came from reading and doing experiments over time,” he said.